Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Clocking Out

After being with Dylan for as long as she had, as much as she appreciated an alternative to the likes of Jarvis and Kent, Stella found herself increasingly bored with the S&M roleplaying. Moreover, between that and working at The Bauhaus Café, she was getting quite exhausted. Furthermore, she longed to go on regular dates – movies, dancing, dinner dates, browsing in shops, heck, she’d even settle for bowling night at the Lucky Strikes Bowling Alley, ferfuckssake! Unfortunately, Dylan got so’s he’s insisting on the S&M Games.

The schism was beginning to take its toll. One night, as Dylan dismissed her protestations of “Not tonight, please…I’m tired,” she began to wonder just who the fuck the “dom” was here. In any case, it does get exhausting punishing Dylan all the time. And being punished for being exhausted wasn’t much better.

Somehow she acquiesced to his insistance and chained him face down on the bed. Then she whipped him as hard as her fatigued body would allow. But it never seemed to be as rough as he liked. So he decided to step it up, taunting her, “Bitch, do it harder!!!” His tones were snarling, contemptuous, outright disrespectful even.

And she found herself just stepping back and listening to this bound man spew his verbal diarrhea, him thinking that this might somehow get her angry enough to flog him harder. And all she could only just look at him lying face down on the bed, he looked like a damn jackass, and she thought, “What a douchebag.” Rolling her eyes, she said to him, “Fuck you!” and threw down the whip.

Still dressed in her rubber cat suit, she grabbed her leopard print Kate Spade purse and stormed out.

“Hey, where you going, Momma?” Dylan demanded.

“Out!” And with that, she left the house – leaving Dylan chained to the bed – and caught the next bus heading downtown to the Bauhaus Café. She got a lot of strange looks from the rest of the passengers on the bus, I might add.

“Stella? Hey Stella!!! Stellaaaaa!!” Dylan yelled loud enough to pull a coitus interruptus on Cannes and Clay, who were both in her bedroom trying to indulge in a love-in of their own. As Dylan called, the two lovers found it very hard to concentrate on each other. Then it dawned on them both that Dylan had been left chained in Stella’s room, and wouldn’t shut the fuck up.

He was yelling loud enough to wake the frickin’ dead!

Clay drew a heavy sigh as he withdrew from Cannes, saying, “I’m sorry, babe…I…”

“What are you apologizing for? You’re not the one who deserves to be punished.” With that the two of them got out of bed and, pulling on their bathrobes on the way, stormed upstairs to the attic. Dylan’s plaintive cries for Stella rang out one last time as Cannes opened the door to Stella’s room.

“Oh, I’m sorry…did I interrupt anything?” Dylan asked, still spread-eagled on the bed.

Cannes saw the whip that Stella threw on the ground in exasperation and disgust, and got an idea. If it was anybody else’s lovemaking that was rudely interrupted, Clay would’ve immediately felt sorry for the dude. Knowing Cannes as well as he did, she could be dead vicious and cruel. But not only did he not care, he was gonna sit back and watch the fun…and maybe laugh.

Poor Dylan, he really should be careful what he asks for, because he got it good! Cannes went beyond the severity that he wanted, leaving some really nasty welts on his bare back, ignoring the safety word, really hurting the dude, till Clay decided he’d had enough entertainment. He stood up, grabbed the arm that held the whip, and laughed as he told Cannes, “Okay, that’s enough now.”

Dylan was crying…those welts hurt so bad! “Where’s Stella?” he sobbed.

“You interrupted our orgy, and drove off your mistress in the process! You deserved to be taught a lesson, bro!” Cannes scolded him as Clay unchained him. “Now get your clothes and get the fuck outta here!”

With that, Dylan grabbed his clothes and left, all apologies. It was a very warm night, so Dylan wasn’t too uncomfortable walking the streets of Magmaville in nothing but his rubber shorts. The welts on his back on the other hand stung like Hell.

The two of them drew a heavy sigh, relieved that Dylan was finally gone and that they finally had the whole house to themselves.

“Wanna watch some T.V.?” Clay offered.

“Yeah, sure, why not.” Cannes replied.

Stella had arrived at The Bauhaus Café. She decided she needed some girl talk. With Richard and Janet out on another video shoot for the Wild Riderz show, she turned to the next best thing she had for a mother…namely Punk Mother. She hoped to plead for some time off, a break from the grind.

Besides, Grinderman was scheduled to play at The Los Osos Theater, in Los Osos, of course, and Pearl scored two tickets for the show, hoping to get Stella to come for a visit.

Kent was in a mood. Maybe he was having his period.

Whatever the fuck his problem was, all Stella said as she strolled into the café, “Look, if you’re going to insist on serenading me, try to pick out a tune that doesn’t suck, okay?” It was a slow night, with only Kent and Stella and Punk Mother, who was in the office, Stella was sure.

Anyway, Kent took offense and whined some crap about snide comments. Stella just continued to make her way to the office, giving the twerp the old talk-to-the-hand signal…A slightly more civil version of the middle finger.

She found Punk Mother at her desk, looking at the employee log book in case some new grievance was written down in there. In this case, one of the employees was using company property for personal tasks – too cheap to invest some quarters at the laundromat, instead of the Magmaville arcade. Kent was ratted out for that, he suspects by Stella. Apparently the timing of Kent’s washer and dryer use was interfering with the company laundry.
“Sounds like the little demogogue’s got his period today.” Stella joked to Punk Mother.

“He’s just mad coz I called him out at the start of his shift, that’s all.” Punk Mother replied just before she turned her head to see Stella in her catsuit. She burst out laughing and then said, “I can tell by the way you’re dressed that you have some kind of statement to make.”

So Stella got right to the point. As shorthanded as Punk Mother was at work, she didn’t really need for Stella to get into some fatigue-induced attitude on the job. She’d just get Milo, Teddyboy, and Clay to pitch in and help out around here till she gets back from Los Osos. It wasn’t that busy this time of year, anyway.

Satisfied, Stella returned home. Dylan was long gone. Clay and Cannes were downstairs watching Snakes on A Plane…the unedited version.

“Sorry about Dylan, you guys.”

“I’d be sorry too, if he wasn’t asking for it. Isn’t that right, Clay?” With that, the two lovers guffawed about the state that Cannes reduced Dylan to.

Stella realized what had happened after she left to talk to Punk Mother, and could only shake her head and chuckle in amusement.

“I’m gonna leave town for a little while…not too long. I’m taking the next train to Los Osos.”

“Oh.” Cannes tried not to show it, but she began to get a little nervous. She didn’t know why, apart from recollecting some nightmare involving a big black dog that lead her to Stella’s dead body somewhere in the woods.

“I’d ask you two to join me, but Pearl’s only got two tickets to see Grinderman.”

Well, once Stella was dead set on something, there was no talking her out of it, really.

“No biggie.” Clay replied. He just wanted to get back to the movie.

With that Stella went upstairs to pack.

Let’s Talk About Pearl…

Pearl Burke’s conception was frightening enough. After school one day, a couple of racist thugs ambushed her biological mother and gang-raped her. Nine months later Pearl was born. The poor mother could neither afford to abort or to care for the child. This left her only one choice; put the child up for adoption.

Enter Thomas and Geraldine Burke, the brother and sister in law of Lenora’s first husband Henry Burke. The two of them had been married for a few years and were trying to conceive a child of their own…to no avail.

So you see where this is headed. The poor helpless soon-to-be-named Pearl Burke stole Geraldine’s heart. Tom wanted to hold out for a while male baby, but there was a waiting list for that. Geraldine didn’t feel that they could just turn their backs on this infant girl who needed a home now. So in the end they adopted her, all the while Geraldine consoled Tom, assuring them that caring for little Pearl would be good practice in the meantime while they waited for that coveted boychild to arrive at the adoption center.

She was raised in Magmaville, and when she entered high school she soon hooked up with her cousin Clay and his friends Jarvis, Kent, Stella, and Cannes. Kent she liked immediately, mainly because he was brainy like her. Or maybe she felt sorry for him, who knows, really. I mean, she did get picked on a lot and she – being mixed race and adopted – knew too well how that felt.

It was also for this reason that she found herself becoming fast friends with Stella Yossarian. Stella took a lot of heat at school for taking her insulin shots in the girls room, and most of the other girls wrote her off as the schoolyard junkie. But Pearl’s dad had type 2 diabetes, and was put on both insulin and metformin. (yeah, that’s what I said…”yikes!”). He might’ve been prescribed only the metformin if he had taken better care of himself, but he didn’t give a fuck. In any case, the two girls bonded. And as Pearl became a frequent visitor to the Yossarian home she also bonded with Cannes.

Clay liked the idea of having a black girl in his family, so he was like a brother and a friend to her.

After her father passed away, very suddenly at the reception of Henry and Patrice Burke’s wedding reception, Pearl moved to Los Osos where her mother lived (by that time Geraldine and Tom had been legally separated). Her father’s death left her devastated, and she felt she needed a change. She was so distraught she could barely deal with other people, let alone Kent although she was in love with him.

Now, Kent could’ve moved to Los Osos to be with Pearl if he wanted to, but evidently he did have a thing for Stella. Everyone could tell because he was always trying to impress Stella by trying a bit too hard to be Mr. Funny Guy just to get her attention…even when he knew damn well that she was going with Jarvis. That didn’t go over well with Stella anymore than it did with Jarvis. And even though by the time Pearl left town she and Jarvis had split up, she was clearly not interested in Kent Neidermeyer at all

Not only that, but she was a loyal enough friend to Pearl that she didn’t want to be the one to come between Pearl and Kent. So every time Kent hit on Stella, she’d make a point of contacting Pearl to tell her everything. That helped Pearl get over Kent pretty damn quickly.

Anyway, after the move Pearl found work as an aide at the Greener Pastures Retirement Community Center. Part of her duties included helping the residents from their beds into their wheelchairs and onto the toilets, even wiping their butts if need be…

(“I’ll take care o’this m’self!!! Gitcher gawddamn cotton picken hands offen mah business!!! Dag nabbit!!” Some of them would gripe at Pearl.)

…changing their bedding, wheeling them to the dining rooms…

(And occasionally dodging wheelchair drag races between the more competitive and onrey residents!)

…bringing lunch trays to their rooms when they wanted to eat in their rooms, giving them their daily medications…

(“Look, Meredith!! Drugs!!”)

(“Hawt diggetdy dawg!! I’m-a getting’ loaded tonight, Boy Howdy!!!”)

No doubt about it…the job kept her busy…at times too busy!

It was at the Greener Pastures Retirement Community Center where Pearl’s biological mother resided. Many’s the time that Pearl performed her basic duties in her presence. But Pearl never once recognized her. Why would she? She never knew her as a child, so she wouldn’t know her from Emily, really. Nor did Pearl have the slightest interest in finding out who her real mother is; she felt she had enough going on her plate as it was. A full-time job, a couple of health issues of her own, and a mountain of debts being neglected – save for the rent, fortunately – in favor of some of her favorite post-punk bands that might be touring through Los Osos at the moment. So to Pearl, this patient she doted on was just part of the landscape she worked in…like the rest of them.

But her mother did recognize the woman she gave birth to, and deep down she wished she could’ve raised her right, help her develop a taste for some good ole fashioned Soul music like Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross & The Supremes.

Admittedly, even Geraldine was a bit taken aback by Pearl’s interest in the kind of bands that her friends listened to, like Joy Division and Bauhaus.

As it happened, she was listening to a recording of Joy Division’s Transmission and applying her trademark Cleopatra eye makeup when the call from Stella came through. She was on the train to Los Osos when she called Pearl to let her know whether or not the train would arrive on time or not Stella had taken up Pearl’s offer of a ticket to see Grinderman.

Pearl was ready to bust loose with an old friend. Before Stella had even arrived at the station she was already a sight for sore eyes…especially eyes that had seen far too many angry and bitter old coots – who might be better off set adrift on some ice floe – just because they didn’t always get their own way. No better than children, really, Pearl thought bitterly.

Anyway, on to less depressing thoughts…..

The rendezvous was nothing out of the ordinary; Pearl and Stella exchanged hugs upon meeting and headed over to the nearest Hoagie Queen for a bite to eat.

What struck Stella was that her old boss from the Hoagie Queen in Magmaville, Tarsem Chopra, was running one of the Los Osos franchises. This brought back memories of her first job, where she worked with her ex-boyfriend Jarvis, and how the two of them would stifle the urge to break into “Moose and Squirrel” jokes as he did his best to run the place.

Tarsem was a kind of hero of sorts to her. There was a moment when she was just beginning to feel a low coming on and the last customer of the afternoon rush just wanted to talk and talk and talk and wouldn’t let her break away. Yeah, y’know I’ma gonna say it…

He held her captive with all that incessant jibber-jabber!

To this day Stella didn’t know whether Tarsem is as familiar with the effects of insulin therapy as her family, nor whether he just knew her too well, or whether he just knew that particular customer too well. All the same, he paged Stella into his office.

She went in, Tarsem offered her a coke and decided to have Jarvis make her a 6” sub as soon as he dealt with that last customer himself. So Jarvis made Stella one of her favorites, a turkey & bacon sub with monterey jack cheese on a whole wheat sourdough half a loaf.

So that was a standout moment for Stella. Much of the rest of her employment with Tarsem was spent behind the counter assisting in the construction of many 6” and foot long submarine sandwiches for the long lines of customers that often went in and out the front door. This often made it difficult for the employees to get a piss – let alone a meal – break. Luckily, Stella learned quickly to employ new glucose management strategies to accommodate her job.

“Small fucking world, innit.” Stella said as she layed eyes on her old boss. The two of them ordered teriyaki chicken subs and raspberry flavored ice teas to take back to Pearl’s place. The girls would need to spend almost every waking moment preening and getting ready to see Grinderman perform live before making their way to the front of the ticket line so that they could get a spot directly in front of Nick Cave’s microphone stand.

They stayed only long enough to have a brief conversation with Tarsem, during which Stella had finally got the answer she was seeking. “How did you know I was having a glucose emergency back then?”

“I am former boxing champ!” Tarsem answered in his very thick Indian accent. “When someone ‘bout to go down for count, I know…hokay!”

They came, they saw.

Grinderman disappointed no one.

It felt good to forget about work and diabetes and self-centered boyfriends, and just cut loose and get wild and crazy for one night. Well worth the 4 ½ hr wait at the front of the ticket queue.

Back at Pearl’s place the girls were still keyed up. Stella would’ve loved to hang out at the backstage door for a chance to meet Nick Cave, but she knew her disease too well. The longer she waits before she eats again, the more irritable and impatient she’d become. And besides, there’s never a guarantee of meeting a famous anybody after the show unless they decide to do some kind of meet and greet. Additionally, Stella would rather be at her best when meeting someone new or famous…not her worst.

The Hoagie Queen was closed for the night, so the two of them just went straight home and had the remains of a cheeseless chicken and veggie pizza (Pearl’s allergic to dairy, y’see) that was ordered while they waited in line for the concert. Not atypical of a post-concert high, Pearl put on her copy of Grinderman’s album as they ate and talked.

Now, Pearl and Stella were speculating on what it would be like as a rock star wife…

“I don’t know if the money and fame would be worth it, really.” Stella, ever the pragmatic one, opined. “There’d still be too much competition between me and the other fans, and I’d be forced to accept all that as just an occupational hazard. It sounds boring, but I may as well marry a doctor instead. He’d at least help me score a good health care insurance plan.”

“You’d think that’d be the next logical progression, with the kind of families we come from.” Pearl said.

“I couldn’t be truly happy, though. It’d be too much like my normal life. What about you; do you think you’d be happy as Mrs. Nick Cave?”

“The marriage would last a day, I’d be harping on him about his lifestyle, and then he might, y’know, smack me around like my dad did.”

“Fuck men, anyway.” Stella damn near spat out.

“You did! Look what came of it!” Pearl pointed out. “I’d’ve loved to see you storm into The Bauhaus Café in your catsuit!!” she added, laughing. “I bet you looked really hot…really, really hot!”

“Well, that would go over real well with Kent, you drooling over me in my catsuit!” Stella laughed.

“To be honest I couldn’t give two shits. It’s funny…” Pearl added becoming a bit more thoughtful. “You’d think after such a messy death like what my dad had, I’d become all clingy and co-dependent, and wanting him around me all the time, subjecting him to all my vulnerability….but I don’t”

“So I guess you’re not really interested in getting back together with him, or coming back to Magmaville, then?”

“I might come for a visit from time to time, but I really like it here. I’ve got a good job, I’ve got my own place, and there’s all kinds of cool nightclubs I can go party at.

“Maybe you should move over here, get away from all the control freaks, start a new life, pursue your dreams…”

That sounded like a not at all bad idea. She loved hanging with Punk Mother and with her sister, but was really beginning to feel like her life in Magmaville was getting old.

Pearl continued, “You could move in with me, and Tarsem would probably hire you right away.”

Working for Tarsem again probably wouldn’t exactly be like old times, nothing ever is. All the same the thought of a real change in her life appealed to Stella. Everything she’d want and need would be right here in Los Osos.

Plus Stella sensed something about Pearl that maybe she was dying to reveal, and was curious enough to explore that part of her. After all, here she was extending this invitation to her almost in earnest. In fact, the more Pearl spoke of the idea, the less inclined Stella was to conjure up excuses not to take her up on it. Pearl couldn’t be any more notorious of a diabetes cop than anyone else she’s put up with in Magmaville…seeing as the two of them had been chowing down on pizza, fercrissakes.

Seems every fiber of Stella’s being was just telling her to go for it. There wasn’t that much to lose by it. Lenora would understand. Cannes might prattle on about that damned black dog nightmare she seems to have all the time, but hey her sister isn’t her mother. And isn’t it about time she tried to make it on her own anyway?

“I’m so over Magmaville, Pearl. How serious are you really about having a bitch like me living with you?” She had to ask, y’know. “Coz I’m so close to saying yes to this right now!”

“I missed you, Stella. I want us to hang out together like we used to do. Even if we end up fighting all the time over the dishes or whatever, y’know…I want us to be together.”

So, that’s where this is headed. Pearl was clearly lonely and in love with Stella, that was too obvious.

Suddenly the two girls stopped talking, and looked deep into each other’s eyes. There was no doubt about it; those two wanted each other. So they kissed…

And they kissed again…

And then they started making out.

And before you knew it, the two of them were making love while the entire Grinderman c.d. played on album repeat again and again. Their limbs were entwined around each other, their hands exchanged caresses and more kisses and more fondling each other gently and passionately. Stella enjoyed every second of this. As Pearl began to caress Stella’s pubes, gently stroking the soft curls between her new lover’s legs, Stella let out the most passionate sigh Pearl’s ever heard. And then Stella said, “Oh my God, Pearl. I just love that you’re being so gentle with me. It’s such a turn on!” This was such a nice change of pace from the feigned cruelty and aggression that She and Dylan had been acting out too frequently. She needed this gentleness…She needed this change.

She needed a good woman.

The day came for Stella to return to Magmaville. She didn’t want to leave Pearl, but if she was to move in with her, she had to go home and get all her things packed up and somehow make arrangements to have it all moved to Los Osos.

With that in mind, Stella boarded the train to Magmaville.

As soon as she found her seat, Stella settled down for a nap.

The train was halfway home when Stella woke up, feeling a low coming up fast. She checked her purse and luggage for a snack of some sort, and found that she’d forgotten to pack anything of the sort. There weren’t even any glucose tablets.

Luckily, there was a snack bar on the train. Unfortunately it was closed.

Stella began to look for a conductor who could maybe help her…and as she did she became dizzy and confused and stumbled for a bit. Luckily a conductor saw Stella stumble.

Unluckily he assumed she was drunk off her ass. He pulled the emergency brake, opened the exit doors, and ordered her off the train.

Unluckily also she wasn’t allowed get her luggage. Luckily she had her purse with her.

Luckily also, her cell phone was in it, and was still fully charged from the night before.

Stranded in the woods somewhere between Los Osos and Magmaville, she realized that she was in real danger. She thought briefly about how Cannes prattled on about this nightmare, but saw no black dogs anywhere.

Luckily, amid the hypoglycemia-induced confusion, she’d seen a road sign indicating that she was 13 miles away from the nearest town. She began to dial the number for The Glamourous Beauty Salon.

Meanwhile, back at The Glamourous Beauty Salon, Cannes had finished with her last client of the day. She paused before sweeping up the hair clippings to take a nice big drink from her can of Coke. Then she felt a huge belch coming on. So she let out a long, loud, and altogether ungodly sounding croak that came from deep inside of her belly. The other hairdresser and clients roared with laughter at the noise.

Somehow amid all this hilarity, Cannes heard the business phone ring and answered it. It was Stella.

“Cannes!!! Cannes, it’s me Stella. I’m in trouble! I’ve gotten kicked off the train by this dumb-assed conductor who thought I was drunk, and I’m stranded in the woods!!!”

“What?!? Slow down, Estelle…What happened??”

“I got kicked off the train coz the conductor thought I was drunk off my ass. And now I’m stranded in the woods! I’ve got nothing to stop this low that’s hit me!” Stella was really freaking out.

“Okay, can you tell me which part of the woods you’re in?”

“It looks like I’m about 13 miles south of Monterey, somewhere in the Los Alamos National Forest. I can maybe make it over to the side of the highway…maybe.”

“Do you have anything to tide you over in the meantime, till I get us to a fast food place or something in the next town?”

“No! I’m such an idiot! I thought maybe the snack bar on the train would be open.”

“Okay, I’m almost through here. I’m coming to get you, and I’m bringing some food.”

“Please hurry…my head’s spinning right now.”

At that moment, Clay came into the salon.

“Clay!” Cannes was relieved to see him, as he was the fastest driver she knows. “Stella’s in deep trouble. She’d had a low and the train crew thought she was drunk, so they kicked her off and she’s stranded in the woods without anything! We gotta go get her, coz she’s sinking fast, I’m sure!!”

With that she and Clay jumped into his jeep, snagging 2 more cans of Coke, a couple of apples, and 2 sticks of white chocolate almond biscotti that had been stored in the mini-fridge at the salon, and hauled as on the road to Monterey to look for Stella.

Meanwhile, Stella began to make her stumbly way to the side of the road. And as she did, she commanded her liver to action. “C’mon, liver, get to work!! I need glucagon, stat!!”

As Clay floored it, Cannes prayed that she wouldn’t get stuck behind some slow-driving old coot, or get pulled over by a mean cop looking to meet his quota, or hit a dog on the way -- especially not a black dog – or even get into an accident themselves.

In her state it was a struggle for Stella to get to the highway. But she made it somehow. Once there, she sat by the curb to wait for her sister. She felt her head spinning and the adrenaline burned through her arms, and she was shaking uncontrollably.

She saw a powder blue pick up truck approach and decided to hitch a ride to Monterey. Maybe this guy would just drop her off at some truck stop there, and she had money enough to get food. So she’ll call Cannes once she gets there and have her come meet her at the truck stop.

She stuck out her thumb and sure enough the pick up pulled over. It stopped several yards ahead of her, then backed up to where she was seated.

“Please help me!!” she blurted out to the driver.

The driver spoke, “You don’t look so good, little lady. C’mon inside the cab.” He slid over to the passenger side and gave her a hand into the vehicle. There was a can of Coke in the drink holder next to the driver’s seat. He offered her a drink, and she thanked him as she drank…still shaking like a leaf.

As she drank, the driver started getting a trifle frisky and that was putting it mildly. “Come closer, little lady.” She was feeling faint, so she moved closer to him so that she wouldn’t have far to fall in case she did pass out.

The driver moved his arm over her shoulders and his hand fondled her breast. That was enough to jolt Stella out of feeling safe. She realized that she was in a new kind of danger. She struggled to get away from him, but he pulled her closer to him. Somehow she got one of her arms free and jabbed her fingers in his eyes. Her fingernails were long and sharp.

She got out of the cab of the truck and began to stumble back towards the woods to hide. She just needed time to make one last call to Cannes. She didn’t drink much of the driver’s soda at all, and from what she had to drink she detected an aftertaste of Rum. In her state it was dangerous to have any alcohol at all…

Cannes cell rang as Clay drove. It was Stella again. Her voice seemed to cut in and out as she spoke, but Cannes could make out, “…blue pick up…coming after me…” and then no more. Cannes cell phone went dead.

The full sentence actually was, “Cannes, this psycho in a blue pick up truck pulled over and acted like he would help me, but now he’s coming after me, and he means to rape me!!!!”

“Could you make out any of it?”

“All I could get clearly was something about a blue pick up truck.”

“Good God,” Clay exclaimed with alarm. “She could be desperate enough to try something stupid like hitch a ride to the next town and met up with some serial rapist!!” With that he floored the accellerator pedal.

About 5 minutes later they spotted the blue pick up truck parked by the highway. Clay slowed down and pulled over in back of the vehicle. Stella was nowhere to be seen, so the two of them figured she was in the woods somewhere. It was still broad daylight, so it wouldn’t be hard to spot any fresh shoe prints and broken twigs among the shrubbery.

Clay dialed 911 on his cellphone. He had a bad feeling that the police would need to be involved in the growing mess this was fast becoming. Cannes spotted an opening by the side of the road and immediately found two sets of fresh footprints. Clay followed, carrying the thermos box of food and drink, and his bowie knife.

The shrubbery was a crappy hiding place. That slimy thug had no trouble finding Stella. As soon as she turned off her cell phone she saw him towering over her, and let out a scream. She had no chance to get away. He was on top of her in an instant, pinning her down.

“So this is how you treat someone who comes to your rescue? You rude little bitch, I’m gonna have to teach you some manners!”

Luckily, the shrubbery was such a lousy hiding place that even Cannes and Clay had no trouble finding them. “Get OFF her, you creep!!” Clay shouted right before he gave the rapist a good swift kick in the head. The force of that blow was enough to knock the thug off of Stella.

Right then, Stella had a seizure, going into severe convulsions. Cannes raced to her sister and held her as the seizure shook Stella’s body. The convulsions lasted a good 30 seconds and then Stella went completely still…

And then she stopped breathing.

The thug was unconscious as well. Clay had kicked him so hard that his head hit a very large rock in the ground as he fell off Stella.

But it was already too late. Stella was gone.

Between the severe hypoglycemia, the absence of any real food, the scumbag, and finally that seizure, Stella was pretty much screwed.

The next thing Cannes and Clay knew, there was a siren screaming in the distance, getting louder as it came nearer. The police were on the way to help clean up this mess.

It turns out that the police had been on the lookout for a blue pick-up truck belonging to a man suspected of being a serial rapist/murderer. Thirteen women had been brutally raped and all but one of them had been murdered. Somehow, the 13th had survived the attack and was able to give the police a full and accurate description of the man and the vehicle he drove…including the license plate number.

Stella was his last victim.

The two of them returned to Magmaville. They had a long talk with the police at the scene of the crime. No charges were filed against Clay or Cannes. Stella’s attacker was taken into custody after regaining consciousness. Nothing left to do but go straight to The Bauhaus Café, where Punk Mother was anxiously awaiting news about Stella.

When they arrived, they found Punk Mother seated at a booth, trembling and sweating. She was sipping a bit too slowly on some orange juice. In Stella’s absence, she was pulling double duty with Kent. The café was swamped so there was no chance of either one of them to take a break and recharge in any way. Realizing that Punk Mother might be going low, Clay and Cannes sat on each side by her, and held her hand as she waited for the trembling to subside.

“Where’s Stella?” Her voice trembled as she asked. There would be no good way to put what had happened to Stella in words. So they just told her what they saw when they found her.

Punk Mother could say nothing but just sat trembling and sweating. She went into shock; she wanted to cry, but she was just shaking too badly. She couldn’t even bring herself to eat any of the croissant sandwich that was prepared for her, nor take any more orange juice. Clay and Cannes begged her to eat, telling her they’d already witnessed one death and just couldn’t take another death so soon.

She reluctantly began to eat, taking very small bites, barely able to swallow, she was too choked up. Clay and Cannes stayed by her side, comforting her, teary eyed themselves, holding her free hand, and prayed with her.

Despite all her outward rebellion, Punk Mother was a deeply religious person.

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